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The basic intent of a Product Owner is to represent the customer to the development team. A key responsibility of the Product Owner is to manage and give visibility to the product backlog, or the prioritised list of requirements for future product development. In fact, the Product Owner is the only one that has the authority to change the priority of requirements in the product backlog.
As described in the Scrum Guide, “A Scrum Product Owner is responsible for maximising the value of the product resulting from the work of the Development Team. How this is done may vary widely across organisations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.”
The PO is the only team member responsible for managing the Product Backlog. Product Backlog management includes but is not limited to the following;
Prioritised items in the Product Backlog which best achieves goals
Optimisation of the value of the work the Development Team is performing
Ensuring visibility, transparency, and clarity in the Product Backlog for all team members, and a picture depicting what the Scrum Team will be working on next.
Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog not just at the surface level.
The Product Owner may do the work mentioned above, or have the people in the Team do it. However, the Product Owner remains accountable.
One very peculiar aspect of Product Owner responsibilities is that they must be available invariably to the development team to answer any queries regarding the customer’s view of how they’re implementing a product feature.
Since the Product Owner is one person, not a committee, he/she represents the desires of a committee in the Product Backlog. But those wanting to change a Product Backlog item’s priority must first address the Product Owner. The Product Owner’s decisions are visible in the content of the Product Backlog and the order of the priorities. No one can force the Team to work from a different set of requirements.
Product Owner vs Product Manager
A Product Owner mostly handles the internal issues of a company whereas, the Product Manager handles external affairs but mainly, the key difference between the two revolves around their mindset when approaching a problem to be solved.
Given a job, The Product Owner, says “If you are going to spend this money, I will make sure you get the most value from your development investment.” On the other hand, the Product Manager responds, “If you give me this resource, I will deliver you this business result.”
Product owners are at the epicentre of every development cycle. But what do they actually do?
Though a product owner’s role varies, they typically have several essential roles and responsibilities encasing all things from business strategy to product design.
1. Defining the vision
In an agile environment, the PO is the person on the product development team who defines goals and creates a vision for development projects using their high-level perspective.
Product owners are responsible for the communication held with stakeholders across the board. The includes customers, business managers, and the development team to make sure the objectives are clear and the vision is aligned with the business aim.
Having a product owner with a higher perspective ensures that the team maintains a cohesive vision despite the flexible and often fast-paced nature of agile product development. Everyone needs to be on the same page in order for a project to work effectively.
A PO aids the team in maintaining that vision is by creating a product road-map. A product roadmap is a high-level, strategic visual summary that draws an outline of the vision and direction for the product offering over time. It is a strategic guide for stakeholders to reference and a plan of action, too.
Now, this is one of the most important responsibilities for a PO. I’m talking about managing the product backlog. It’s basically the development team’s to-do list.
The product owner’s responsibility is to create and groom a list of backlog items. Which means, the PO needs to create a list of things to do and prioritise them based on the overall strategy and business objectives. In addition to it, he/she will also need to map out project dependencies to depict the necessary sequence of development.
Also, the product backlog isn’t a static to-do list, it’s pretty dynamic and based on external and internal unpredictabilities. So, it should be a live document continually updated based on evolving project needs throughout development.
Because of the frequent change in the list, the product owner must make it accessible and available to all stakeholders, most importantly the developers, to ensure optimised performance and project outcomes.
Another essential aspect of the PO’s role is to prioritise needs. Simply put, he/she must juggle between the triangle of scope, budget, and time, weighing priorities according to the requirements and objectives of stakeholders involved in the product.
With the vision, strategy, and product priorities already set, the PO should spend a significant amount of time overseeing the actual development of the product. There is always a key player throughout each event. This is including planning, refinement, review, and sprint.
During the stages of planning, the agile product owner works with stakeholders to identify and organise the steps required for the next iteration. They will then meet with their team to refine the process, identify areas for improvement, and support the sprint.
The successful product owner should be an expert at understanding and anticipating the client’s needs to more effectively manage the processes of development.
Their communication skills and deep market knowledge allow them to anticipate and address problems.
The product owner is also the primary communicator and one-point-contact between stakeholders and teams. As it is, they have to be really good communicators, making sure there’s always a buy-in from stakeholders on all major business decisions and strategy. They also make sure of clear instructions and deliverables for the development team.
The product owner is solely accountable for each stage of the development process and the final product. They take a primary role in facets of product development like inspecting and evaluating product progress in each iteration. The product owner makes the call on the performance. He/She decides if the team needs to go back to square one or if they can move on to the next stages of the project.
The role of PO not only requires a thorough understanding of the product but the analytical skills and business strategy. The person who wants to become a good product owner needs to understand the market and the stakeholders equally well. They should be able to create a vision for the team to follow.
To gain confidence in this area, you can opt for a certification program for product owners provided by different training institutes. I would reckon you select a domain, stick to it, master it by all means and then there is no stopping for you!
1. Missing product road map
2. High-level acceptance criteria
3. Spending too much time dealing with product support instead of grooming the backlog
4. Changing priority while sprint is in progress
Product Owners can escape these issues by working around the product road map, centring on high-value backlog items, defining crisp acceptance criteria, concentrating on grooming quality backlog item, and avoiding disturbing sprints.
A Product Owner is an indispensable role in the scrum team. This individual carries the ownership of the product in terms of quality and delivering as per the expectations set with the stakeholder.
Product Owner is the person who has an all-inclusive view of the product along with all the other factors that make the product successful. This involves understanding business, go-to-Market, organisational readiness, and product capabilities. All of these should be collectively managed, coordinated and aligned to drive product success.